Open questions and paradoxesEdit
Many of the routes and parts of the story in VLR leave questions open. This section lists some of these questions, and possible answers to them. Nothing here is official or recommended - feel free to add any questions or suggested answers you have!
Beware: this page contains spoilers for the entire game, plus the prequel 999! It should really only be read after you've finished the game.
Whole game: Time travelEdit
The events in the game, in the order that Sigma experiences them, go something like this:
- At age 22, he is attacked by Zero/Akane. His consciousness jumps forward into his 67-year-old body in Rhizome-9. Meanwhile, his 67-year-old consciousness is forced to jump back to his 22-year-old body.
- Sigma plays the Nonary Game. Meanwhile, his 67-year-old consciousness in the past is trying to stop the spread of Radical-6 and, during the course of this attempt, he has his arms ripped off and replaced with cybernetic ones. Since the body Sigma is now in is the 67-year-old one that lost his arms when he was 22, Sigma still has prosthetic limbs in 2074.
- Sigma completes the Nonary Game and his souls switch back to the correct versions of their bodies, although Sigma returned with a mysterious lack of arms and one missing eye three months after he left. He speaks with Akane, who explains what is going on and also mentions that a previous attempt to stop the virus failed.
- Sigma's 22-year-old body and soul go to Rhizome-9 and Sigma spends his life researching and preparing to become Zero and set up the Nonary Game. Sigma puts himself into the AB Room with Phi just before the moment when he knows his 22-year-old soul will swap with him.
- Sigma, now 67, is swapped into his 22-year-old body, arrives with Akane and attempts to stop the virus.
- Sigma fails to stop the virus and, in April, swaps with his younger self who had just completed the Nonary game.
This gives rise to several problems: Time Travel Question A: Won't Sigma be unable to stop the virus, because by the time he gets to try, he has already experienced events that depend on him failing?
- Phi explains to the conciousness inhabiting Kyle's body in Another Time END that if she tells him exactly why the mission failed then they will be locked into a future where their mission fails. The implication is that if anyone "observed" the failure, then Sigma would be unable to succeed, but as long as this remains unobserved it is still unknown and Sigma can succeed. Sigma, Phi, and the unknown conciousness, known as ?, will be creating a new timeline, point E, between December 25th, 2028, and January 1st, 2029. Akane tells ? that he is integral to the mission's success. In a way, we can assume that the first mission failed because of ?'s absence (speculation).
Time Travel Question B: Doesn't Sigma create a paradox by telling his previous self the code for Bomb 01, because no incarnation of Sigma has then ever gotten this information from Dio or anywhere else?
- How does Sigma know the combination? He learns it from Doctor Klim. How does Doctor Klim know the combination? He used to be Sigma. But where the information comes from is an unresolved paradox. The slight caveat to this is that Sigma could have somehow learned (or confirmed) the bomb code while in the Nevada test facility, but this would require either that Dio is there as well or that Free The Soul use standardised bomb passwords (which, given the passwords they do use, is possible)
- Uchikoshi's own FAQ for the game  states that, on the path where the bombs appear, Akane tampered with the bombs after Dio was knocked unconscious by Phi. This is why the bombs count down in Radical-6 time and why the code for Bomb 01 decodes as "Kurashikis". However, since Dio does not arrive in the complex until after Sigma has switched minds with Dr Klim, there would still be no way for Sigma to learn the code to later tell to himself, unless Akane had seen into the bomb timeline future and picked which bomb she would reprogram with a pre-arranged password. This choice either means that she was very lucky that Dio revealed all the other passwords or that she had seen which bombs would have their passwords revealed.
Time Travel Question C: If Free the Soul already "won" in the reality where the Game takes place (ie, the virus was released), why would Dio be trying to sabotage it?
- Say we're using Tenmyouji's biker analogy. From Dio's point of view, he wants to make sure that the ninety bikers die, and to prevent any attempt by S to save them. But what he's effectively doing is to go to the biker's destination to the Northwest, and try to kill the surviving nine bikers. He isn't even specifically targeting S. How can this cause the bikers back at the intersection to keep going Northwest, or harm the bikers who went Northeast?
- Note that this question is slightly weaker than the previous ones, since there is no proof that Dio (or Brother, or anyone from Free the Soul) fully understands the operation of Akane's plans or of morphogenetic fields - in other words, he could just be making a mistake.
Time Travel Question D: What about Sigma's "extra" trip back in PHI; END?
- What happens to Sigma isn't quite as simple as what Akane explains. After Doctor Klim puts Phi's body into the AB Room, he is forced out by the 22-year-old Sigma - but not the one from point A who has just been knocked unconscious by Zero, but the one from PHI; END who has already played the game and is arriving early to save Akane. After saving Akane, this Sigma swaps back to the end of the Nonary Game, Akane puts the bodies back into the AB Room and the original 22-year-old Sigma arrives. Nobody seems to mention this again.
Time Travel Question E: How is Schrodinger's Cat Paradox incorporated into the story?
- Although the description of the experiment (with the cat, bottle of poison, box, etc) is correct, the implication that it's a fact of the universe that unobserved things are in multiple unknown states at once (technically called a superposition) is not. Schrodinger's Cat was actually an attack on theories that implied a superposition could be exist, the intent being that the idea of a cat being alive and dead at once was ridiculous.
- This can be taken further, too. An example of this is Wigner's Friend. The idea of this is that Wigner's Friend performs the Schrodinger's Cat experiment in a locked lab while Wigner himself is standing outside. When Wigner's friend opens the box, he sees the cat as either alive or dead, but what does this mean for Wigner, who has not seen it yet? Is the cat still "alive or dead" for him? If yes, how can it be resolved that Wigner's friend knows the cat is alive or dead, but for Wigner it's still both? If no, why does Wigner's friend in his lab resolve the superposition, but the cat inside the box (also a living creature which is observing the system) not do so?
- Given that quantum mechanics has been repeatedly proven, how does one explain these paradoxes? There are several interpretations.
- One of the most popular is the Copenhagen Interpretation, developed by Niels Bohr and Werner Heisenberg. This interpretation operates under the assumption that a quantum wave function exists in an isolated system (a system allowing no transfer of energy or mass). This means that if no observations are made, the system remains in a quantum superposition. This would still hold for the macroscopic example of Schrödinger's cat.
- The word "observation" here is unclearly defined. It is usually considered to be laboratory equipment. However, this would clearly not generalize to the macroscopic case, because we can experience the world without lab equipment. The definition of "observation" may be amended in this context to meaningful interaction between the environments of the subject and the observer.
- In this case, Schrödinger's cat experiment would be valid, provided that the box is an isolated system, but Wigner's friend would probably not, assuming the room to be an ordinary locked room rather than an isolated system.
- Evidence that VLR may have used elements of this theory is that in the Japanese version of 999, one character names himself "Nirisu" after Niels Bohr, one of the founders of this theory.
- Another theory derived from the concept of Schrödinger's cat paradox is the Many World Interpretation, created by Hugh Everett. This theory states that an indeterminately large amount of universes simultaneously exist due to the wavefunction and that the collapse of the wavefunction is meaningless. Clearly the multiple timelines of VLR were based on this theory. However, the game seems to argue against the meaninglessness of a wave function's collapse, implying that the game uses some hybridization of multiple accepted theories, probably including the Copenhagen Interpretation, and quite possibly some property of espers as well.
E1) Ally/Betray entanglement
- Let's assume the closed AB rooms and the facility to be isoated systems. Within the context of the Copenhagen and Many Worlds Interpretations, this implies that someone who was not sure what to vote before entering would create a wavefunction of alliance and betrayal, which would be collapsed by an observer. This is consistent with Alice's, Tenmyouji's, and Phi's uncertain votes in regards to Sigma (although in the last case it may be equally/more accurate to say it describes Sigma's uncertain vote in regards to Phi).
E2) How do Alice and Clover return to the past?
- Alice and Clover mention that they were informed they can return to the past using Schrödinger's Cat [Paradox]. This would seem to suggest 1. that Alice has some ability to travel along the morphogenetic field and 2. that they may return to the isolated treatment pods without preventing the Nonary Game. The fact that Akane explains this with Schrödinger's Cat Paradox implies that whether or not they are actually in the treatment pods is uncertain. However, because they were found in the pods, an isolated system may allow them to head for a different timeline. The most likely scenario is that they would be brought back to Point E, at which point their pre-VLR consciousnesses would continue along the dystopian path, and the post-VLR consciousnesses would only be able to enter the previously unobserved Radical-6–free timeline
- In the bomb timelines, Akane's state of being would also be in a quantum superposition. This implies that Akane had a chance of being dead before the wavefunction collapsed, relative to the system occupied by the other players. Relative to Phi, one could almost say that Akane had to be dead before the collapse, as it was the act of collapsing the wavefunction that saved Akane. What happened to Akane in that case?
E3) Why is Akane's body not discovered in the bomb timelines?
- How could Akane's body not have been discovered in the bomb timelines? Wouldn't Sigma and Phi have found the body in the first round had Luna moved it to the 6th AB room?
- Not necessarily; it's possible that Lagomorph was ordered to move the AB room unless Sigma chose to go with Alice. This would mean the rooms were never switched in those timelines because Sigma went through the magenta door, not because of Akane being alive or dead. Let's take a look at the timelines in question.
- In the second AB round of Sigma's and Phi's ends, the 6th AB room was left closed because Alice was drugged unconscious. (In Sigma's end there were more because Tenmyouji knocked out Dio while he and Phi waited for Alice and Quark to wake.)
- In Alice's end, Clover went into the 6th room, just after Alice had run off with a scalpel and just before Alice came out of an AB room, out of her drugged slumber, to betray a man with 1 BP. Given Clover's character, it's likely had she found a stabbed body, she would have tried to protect Alice.
- In the first AB round, it is never stated which doors the other characters voted in. If we're assuming the voter found the body and didn't tell about it, there are two likely possibilities.
- The first is that Luna went into the 6th AB room and didn't say anything because she put it there.
- The second, likelier possibility is that Dio and Quark entered the 6th AB room, and that Dio (surprised that the body had migrated to this AB room) accidentally gave himself away as the killer. Quark threatened to tell if Dio didn't vote his way. There are many small indications that support this theory. The most obvious would be Dio's strange behavior after voting to ally with Luna. This was one of only two times he allied, the other time being when Tenmyouji was paired with him, against Alice. This may be evidence that Quark had told Tenmyouji that Dio was susceptible to blackmail. In addition, this would explain what went wrong in Dio's plan and made him decide to use the bombs (although the fact that the body disappeared may have provided enough motivation).
METHODS OF TIME TRAVEL
There are several possible methods by which time travel might be working, which deal with these in different ways:
Closed Time Loop
- In the previous game, 999, when Akane obtained information from the future version of herself playing the Nonary Game, she then had to go ahead and set up that Nonary Game in order for that particular future to exist for her to get the information. Sigma, therefore, will have to do the same. This means that in the timeline where the game is played, Radical-6 was stopped, and the pandemic did not happen. Akane is lying about Sigma's failure; the news broadcast, explosion, and newspaper are all fake; and the players of the game have been infected with Radical-6 by Zero before the game began. One of the files does mention that putting on one of the bracelets causes you to be pierced by a needle; this needle could carry Radical-6, infecting all the players although there is no epidemic. (Why would Akane lie if stopping Radical 6 is inevitable?)
- This resolves question A (Sigma has already stopped the virus, he just needs to hide this from himself) and question C (Free the Soul didn't win), but it doesn't resolve B. There is also a problem with Tenmyouji and Quark. Unless their entire life experience could be faked (or they could be convinced to lie about basically everything to do with themselves), their experience on the devastated Earth wouldn't appear in the game.
- Where can timelines diverge? What is inevitable? (Many Worlds Interpretation)
- Any non-True timeline young Akane is connected to in 999 seems to lead to her death in the incinerator and leads future Akane to suffer fevers and disappear/flee in the Safe End. In addition, the timeline created in PHI; END appears to create a closed loop.
- However, the major problem with this is that Phi recalls Sigma's name in the beginning of the Nonary Game, implying she has already gone through it before, and Sigma also remembers timelines which he hasn't yet experienced. (Do Sigma's flashbacks contain memories from locked timelines?)
- Another problem: a closed loop would require Akane to be EXTREMELY lucky with Bootstrap Paradoxes. There are specific points in which the timeline is allowed to diverge, but points such as Point E have, apparently, no existing alternatives. In addition, Sigma's choice of what number is rolled on a die implies some factor of luck. This may in turn explain why some parts of Akane's plans seem very lucky.
- Likely this implies that the timeline is more complicated than a single closed loop. However, this doesn't necessarily mean that a closed loop is not the basis. It would seem however that espers can create new timelines and that they in a way transcend time, defying causality by placing future memories into alternate versions that have not experienced these timelines (more complicated than consciousness leaping into another time, as this permanently alters the timeline).
Whole game: MoralityEdit
Are there versions of Sigma in alternate timelines who are being swapped into Sigma's body just to die?
- In several sections of the game it's mentioned that Sigma swaps his consciousness with other versions of his body whenever he jumps. The question is, does this apply also to the small jumps Sigma makes during the course of the Nonary Game? If so, it implies that the power is a terrifying one with dreadful implications for Sigma. For example, if Sigma reaches Clover's ending, but then jumps back to his first choice of door, what does that mean for the Sigma with whom he swapped? From the other side, that Sigma was innocently walking up to the doors for the first time when he was forced into a body whose throat was slit.
- This is specifically addressed in Zero Time Dilemma when another character jumps.
Whole game: Radical-6Edit
Isn't the effect where characters suffer 'episodes' of Radical-6, and perceive everyone around them as speaking faster, backwards?
- As we learn from Akane at the end, everyone in the game is affected with Radical-6. At several points in the game, players report hearing and seeing other people speaking or moving unnaturally fast, which is usually taken to imply that their Radical-6 infection is taking hold.
- However, if everyone is infected with Radical-6, this doesn't make sense. The other person they see should not be speaking or moving fast, because that other person is also affected by R6 and would be speaking or moving at R6 speeds. The only way an infected person could see someone moving faster is if either the other person they were looking at did not have R6 or had somehow temporarily suppressed it; or if the R6 virus is taking extreme effect and slowing their brain down even more than R6 normally would.
Whole game: MiscellaneousEdit
Who is the woman speaking on the voice recording from the Test Site?
- The game's author, Uchikoshi, has commented that Sigma, Phi, Junpei, the woman on whom Luna was based, and a version of Dio (a different clone of Left?) were all present at the test site (and will thus appear in the 3rd game). The voice actress for the woman on the voice recording is the same as for Luna, implying that the woman making the recording may be the original Luna, (Diana) but this is not absolutely clear. Also, the recording states that the woman is one of three survivors out of nine, while VLR implies that Luna is dead (or, at least absent) and Sigma, Phi, and Junpei all survived. It is possible that the woman on the recording did not account for Sigma and Phi in her count of nine, since they were presumably in the complex because they were infiltrating it, meaning that the three survivors were her, Junpei, and someone else.
Who is Phi?
- The secret files basically confirm that Phi's identity cannot be found from VLR, and will appear in the sequel, but there are several suggestions that have been made.
- One of these is that Phi is the daughter of one of the other players. The reason for this is in Tenmyouji's motorcycle analogy: (transcript here) he mentions "maybe one of them met a homeless kid who joined them", which is clearly a reference to Quark. He also mentions "maybe one of them fell in love with a gas station attendant and had a child with her" - might that not be a reference to a real event as well?
What's the deal with "lions eating the sun"?
- The "lion eating the sun" is a symbol from alchemy representing impurities being removed from gold by the use of vitriol. (Originally it was a "green lion eating the sun", and vitriol is green.) It has been extended to refer to people in two senses: a positive sense of spiritual purification of a person (removing the corruption to reveal the gold within), and a negative sense of corruption or destruction for personal gain (destroying part of oneself for the sake of obtaining gold). In the latter sense, it could clearly refer to the betrayal aspect of the AB Game.
When is the next game going to be produced?
- So far, it has not been announced. According to Uchikoshi's twitter, VLR was "not yet considered commercially successful" on Nov 27, 2012.
- UPDATE: On July 3, 2015, the third game was announced to be released in summer 2016. On October 30, the title was confirmed to be Zero Escape: Zero Time Dilemma.
In Clover's Ending, what kills everybody?
- There are several possible answers:
- Radical-6: all of the characters were affected by Radical-6, and killed themselves. This is certainly the case for Phi, who is seen alive during the ending but then dead at the end, and likely the case for Alice. However, it is not clear why Radical-6 would be particularly active in this timeline and not others, and it seems unlikely that a group of people gripped by irrational suicidal impulses would all go to exactly the same room and organize themselves into all killing themselves with the same tiny weapon (although, if it's true that people on Earth with Radical-6 arranged to detonate the annihilation reactors to kill themselves, it's possible)
- Clover: Clover may have killed one or more people after discovering Alice dead (in the same way that she threatens to Tenmyouji's route, except that Sigma isn't there to intervene) and then killed herself, either due to Radical-6 or regret. The problem with this theory is that it seems unlikely that Clover would be able to kill the entire group. Although she has done this before (in the Axe ending of 999), there is considerably more resistence here (in particular, K, who is not seen dead) and she openly declared her intent to kill everyone before doing so (whereas in 999, she is able to hide the axe from the other players and ambush them one by one)
- A fight over the neostigmine: If Clover told others that she was carrying the neostigmine, and that this could allow someone who had less than 9 points to escape, it is likely that several people would potentially be prepared to kill for this - most notably Dio. However, there is again the problem of everyone having used the same weapon, which is unlikely in any ongoing brawl.
- It is also notable that in this ending, Luna appears to be lying dead in a pool of red blood, which shouldn't be possible. This means that parts of the scene may have been staged, although the reason why is not apparent.
If Luna is a Three Laws robot, how can she allow the game to happen at all?
- Isaac Asimov's book I, Robot was mostly about the implications of the Three Laws (the movie is very different from the book, although it shares this theme). In that book, it was made clear that a Three Laws robot cannot tolerate harm to humans in any way, because of the first law stating "A robot may not harm a human being.. nor through inaction allow a human being to come to harm." Also, the second law states that "A robot must obey orders provided they do not conflict with the first law", which means that the robot must ignore orders that harm people or abandon them to harm.
- In Luna's case, she breaks this several times. For example, Luna could not allow Akane to plan to be stabbed by Dio, an upon discovering that the bracelets can be removed using aluminium foil she would need to remove everyone's lest someone die later. Luna does acknowledge that she has broken the First Law in LUNA; END, which implies a different interpretation from Asimov's original, in which a robot simply could not break the Laws.
- The secret files suggest that Luna may also be following the "Zeroth Law", added by Asimov in some of his later books such as Foundation And Earth: "a robot may not injure humanity, nor by inaction allow humanity to come to harm", and the first law applies only when it does not conflict with the Zeroth. This resolves a number of problems, including the one presented in the movie of I, Robot (where the robots believe that the First Law requires them take over the planet and rule humans, as otherwise the humans may hurt each other), and possibly Luna's actions too if Radical-6 is deemed to be a threat to humanity. However, Luna doesn't seem to know about it.
Why is Dio's bracelet broken?
- If K really killed Dio in this timeline, who broke Dio's bracelet? Did Dio notice that K reduced the oxygen level in his treatment pod and wanted to take revenge on him? Or was it K himself because he didn't want to live anymore after he remembered who the old woman was and realised that Dio killed that person who was very precious to him? It has been officially stated by the creator of the game in his FAQ that he did this to test his father's love. He wanted to see whether Sigma would save him or Phi, but unfortunately young Sigma's consciousness did not know Kyle yet. (Kyle should have known this, as he then proceeds to tell Sigma what Luna's username is.) In addition, Sigma could not save Kyle because he did not yet know that Kyle had the key to his suit. However, Sigma's instincts were to save Kyle, which may have showed Kyle that Dr. Klim was not selfish and unloving at heart.
Another Time ENDEdit
Who is ?
- The most common view is that ? is the player. It fits perfectly: the player is "from the outside of their system", they know all kinds of things they shouldn't about the setting, they can (effectively) travel between timelines in Akane's world more flexibly than any of the characters can, and Akane suggests their participation will be necessary to stop the virus (in other words, you've got to play the sequel). On the other hand, this leaves a bit of a problem with the assertion that K has swapped bodies with ?...
- This interpretation was effectively confirmed by the author, Uchikoshi, who tweeted in response to a fan asking about ?'s identity on 19 Nov 2012: "@Dobu_Dobu Thanks a lot! I'm very glad. so I'm likely to faint. Is that Blick Winkel? The answer is Yes. :D". Blick Winkel is a reference to another Uchikoshi game, Ever 17: The Out of Infinity, in which Blick Winkel is the name given to the player (who, like the described character in VLR, is represented by a presence with the ability to jump between timelines). Uchikoshi has also stated that the player or the memory of the player (in both 999 and VLR) is meant to represent the Morphogenetic Resonance.